The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded three grants totaling $56.9 million to Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center to study how environmental conditions in a chemical-intensive hospital environment can influence children’s health.
The first stand-alone award will use $3.3 million over five years to examine how phthalate exposure in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may contribute to the development of chronic lung disease of prematurity.
Phthalates are synthetic chemicals used to make plastics durable and flexible. Phthalates are in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring and lubricating oils, and personal-care products, from soaps and shampoos to hair sprays. In the medical area, they are used in virtually all flexible plastic tubing, as well as saline and blood bags. In a NICU, infants often undergo treatments that involve high-dose exposure to these hormone-disrupting chemicals.
“We have demonstrated that NICU-based phthalate exposure affects the development of preterm infants. This study will provide data that will rapidly translate into improvements in NICU practice,” said Annemarie Stroustrup, MD, MPH, vice president and director of neonatal services and system chief of neonatology at Cohen Children’s.
The second and third awards, totaling $53.2 million over seven years, are part of the second phase of the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. Since 2016, more than 1,200 ECHO cohort researchers at more than 80 sites across the United States have collaborated to study the impact of early life physical, chemical and social exposures on long-term child health and development.
In the second phase of the ECHO program Dr. Stroustrup will lead two teams, one following previously recruited preterm infants through middle childhood and adolescence, and the other newly recruiting pregnant women and following the family through pregnancy and the child’s early years.
“Dr. Stroustrup is conducting valuable research that will help advance our understanding of environmental influences on our most vulnerable patients,” said Charles Schleien, MD, senior vice president and chief of pediatric services at Cohen Children’s. “With the support of these three NIH grants, it is our hope that our NICU babies and their families will benefit from even more advanced treatment that will improve their overall outcomes and their future health.”